Yeast Problems of Baby Cockatiels


A ccording to the veterinarians with whom I have spoken, roughly 80 percent of the Cockatiel babies seen by them have some form of yeast, bacteria, or both. Having raised over 6000 Cockatiel babies, I have discovered some of the causes and would like to share my solutions for dealing with this problem that needlessly claims the lives of so many birds.

Yeast is the number one cause of death in baby Cockatiels. Yeast has also been the primary reason for breeders and hobbyists "getting out of 'tiels;" they could not cope with the heartbreak of continually losing babies. I do not know the reason that yeast is more common in Cockatiels than in other species of babies.

As a species, Cockatiels are more prone to stress due to changing conditions such as diet, weather, pairing, caging, etc. To add to the confusion, the initial diagnosis is usually "bacterial," when in reality the bacterial problem is often a secondary infection generated from stress to the system from an overgrowth of yeast. Tr is the stress and conditions that result in yeast that cause the primary infection.

Once the causes of stress are resolved, Cockatiels are very hardy
hirds and are resistant to most yeast and bacterial problems. In this article, I will use the word "yeast" to also include other terms commonly used such as candida and fungal infection.

First we need to understand how a yeast problem develops. You have heard the saying "It's in there." Yeast, like bacteria, are on and inside all living animals and birds. It is considered a normal environmental organism and normal inhabitant of the avian digestive tract. In most reference books, yeast is listed under the heading, Fungal Diseases. The causative agent is Candida albicans which is opportunistic yeast that can cause a variety of problems associated with the avian digestive tract and/or crop in adults, and crop disorders with babies.

In most instances a bird can live its entire life without the resident yeast causing a life-threatening problem. When situations cause stress, the system can respond with a lowered immune response or an upset of the normal bacterial flora, which then can create an overgrowth of yeast. It is this overgrowth of yeast that quickly can become life threatening if it is not recognized and corrected. In other words, what is normally good and beneficial can work against the bird when something triggers an upset and overgrowth.

A culture can determine the extent of the overgrowth of yeast and the proper course of treatment. It also will show overgrowths of bacteria resulting from the yeast overgrowth. If you look at the culture report, you will be sur- prised at the amount of bacteria listed in addition to yeast. What the report shows is the levels above normal. Most culture reports will have another section that lists recommended medications that will be effective, and other medications that would be ineffective.

Much of the current information available is outdated, and in some cases, impractical. In the early 1990s when yeast showed up in cultures, levels were not really taken into consideration. Therefore many vets automatically prescribed an anti-fungal (yeast) therapy.

Up until the mid-1990s it was common practice to encourage breeders to flock treat if one pair or clutch had yeast, meaning that all the birds got treated whether or not they needed it. Flock and group preventive treatments rarely solved the problems. Treating each bird on an individual basis was not even considered. Rarely were suggestions given or solutions offered to reduce or eliminate outbreaks of yeast.

After studying thousands of babies in the nest, I have noticed that stress is the most common factor in yeast problems of nestling Cockatiels. When there is yeast, it is specific per bird. I have noticed also that if one baby in a clutch or group has yeast, it is not communicable to the other babies.

I have used the word "stress" quite frequently. My definition of stress is anything that can directly or indirectly cause something inside the bird to change or react to a situation or condition. Since yeast mainly affects babies either in the nest or while being handfed, I will focus on possible causes, and what to look for, and suggest preventive measures. Interestingly, from observation of over 6,000 babies in five years, it is rare. for a baby to directly contract the yeast from the parent birds. Most yeast problems in the nestbox are what I call system induced, meaning that a form of stress generated the yeast.

The first 10 days of life are the most critical time of risk for the baby in a nestbox to develop yeast overgrowth. Being aware of simple precautions and things to watch for makes a dramatic difference in the rate of survival of Cockatiel babies.